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A programme that is changing lives

September 2021

Knowledge means transformation

Grain SA farmer development facilitates training and transformation in more ways than one – for example the way we encourage farmers to add value to their grain. One of the exciting methods we introduce farmers to is called nixtamalisation. These training courses are currently funded by the Department of Science and Innovation.

During June trainers Agnes Mndawe, Nomsa Ngulube and Phumelele Nyunde worked with Jerry Mthombothi, development coordinator at the Nelspruit office to hold twelve training days with all COVID-19 protocols in place for 247 trainees.

This is a way of preparing maize to enhance nutritional value and make it more versatile. Maize is soaked and boiled in slaked lime water then washed so the outer hull is removed. This removes 90% to 97% of the aflatoxins from the maize so it is an important method to learn about for farmers who store their own grains.

Once rinsed, the soaked grain is now called nixtamal. This is ground, minced and processed with a little bit of water to form a maize dough called masa. Masa dough can be used in many different ways. It just takes a quick demonstration by our trainers to show the transformation of maize to masa. The excitement in the air is tangible!

Nomusa Ngulube
conducted a Nixtamalisation training event near Barberton for 21 learners. The group was taught how to prepare maize to be used for cooking, using lime. Trainees were shown how to grind maize and they were encouraged to take turns and use a hand machine to grind maize. They made yoghurt, muffins, pizzas and a cinnamon ginger spice cake. The level of excitement was high and trainees said they are happy because from now they will use dry maize in a way that will excite their family members. 

Phumelele Nyundu held a similar event at Mandundu for 20 trainees. They were amazed to see the variety of foods that could be made with maize.

Agnes Mndawe held a course at Clu Clau Joy Homebased Centre for 24 ladies. The women started by rinsing the maize and grinded it to make masa. They baked chocolate muffins, pizzas and snacks. 


The Farmer Development team had contact with 99 study groups during June. Most farmers reported that they had had a good season and they were very pleased with their yields. Many farmers wanted to either renew their membership or sign up for the first time because they have found the mentorship offered to them by Grain SA to be invaluable.

Our mentors spent their contact sessions checking the grain and advising farmers on harvesting, shelling the grain, storing and marketing the crop. Farmers were reminded to harvest their maize when the moisture content is at 14% because if it was not dry enough the miller will not accept their maize. They were also reminded to make sure that they remove all foreign materials before they could take their maize to the miller for milling purposes.

The team is also teaching farmers about safe storage and alerting them to the dangers of mycotoxins in grains that stored for own use to be consumed by family and livestock. Preparations for the new season was also discussed. The other top discussion point was the importance of weed control and the different types of chemicals to use both pre and post emergence herbicides.


Ladies preparing the maize using lime.

Grinding the prepared corn kernels to make masa.

The maize dough or masa is being prepared.

Masa dough ready to use.

The products made by the trainees.

Tasting time! Products made with masa dough.

Giving guidance through farm visits

Farm visits during June 2021 were full and varied. On the one hand many farmers were still busy bringing in their crops while at the same time they were planning for the new season. The mentors had 58 encounters with their advanced farmers during June to guide them in diverse ways along their journey towards commercial farming sustainability.

  • Harvesting: The team did yield estimates, checked the moisture levels of the grain and monitored the bulk handling of the crop.
  • Storing: Discussions about safe storage of the harvested grains took place.
  • Planning: General farm maintenance such as fencing, water supply and storage was discussed.
  • Soil health: Attention was given to soil status, soil sampling and liming of fields.
  • Business planning: Mentors discussed financing needs, budgets and insurance as well as office management procedures including cultivating an understanding of the role of SARS with VAT, tax and diesel rebate.
  • Mechanisation: The team gave attention to the condition of the farm implements and mechanisation. They discussed repairs that needed to be done or advised farmers to consider replacing if funds were available.

On the farm of Mahlaba Abel, a farmer near Reitz, cobs were collected to test moisture content at a nearby silo.

During a visit to the Nzimande Farming Projects in the Amsterdam region the crop progress was evaluated.

Mentor Jacques Roux conducts crop inspection before the crop is harvested. Sunflowers and maize were inspected on the farm of Hlalele Joseph Khahleli.

Sharing at study groups

The Grain SA Farmer Development team really enjoys our study group contacts as this is how we get to know the farmers and identify the needs of farmers in the different regions. We are very dependent on the chairpersons of each study group and want to acknowledge them and thank them for their commitment and assistance on this platform. To our chairpersons we say: ‘You are each making an important contribution to the farmers in your community and we thank you!

Here is some of the study group activity that took place in June.

Mentor Elias Dladla visited the farmers of the Schuelzendal study group in Nelspruit region to see their harvest.

A demonstration on handling, maintenance and the calibration of knapsack sprayers was done for the Zaaiplaas study group at Dora Phoku’s house.

The Arthurstone study group farmers in the Bushbuckridge region discussed chemical and mechanical weed control practices.

Publication: September 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula